The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 3.4

June 2, 2000

"A paranoid Tyrant, alone at the top,
desperately hoping that the bottom won't drop."
- Fireaxe "DeathMachine"

As strange as it may seem, the above quote is very applicable to the once great Metallica. Metallica carved it's own path to metal fame by breaking all the accepted metal rules and standards of the genre. But now it seems bizarre to see a band that once belted out defiant anthems like "Master of Puppets" and "One" now siding up with Big Brother in the war against Napster. Then again, history shows this cycle very well. The rebels of the past become the despots of the present and sometime become the icons of the future. And when the new gods become the old gods, they can be very jealous gods indeed.

Although Fireaxe has supported the cause of free music, it looks like Napster may have made it a moot point. Currently all music, copyrighted or not, is pretty much free for the taking. The war between the music industry and the rest of the world is far from over, but that is good news. A serious threat has been posed against the bloated music media giants and they are starting to squirm. I don't see either side standing on solid moral or ethical grounds, both sides are pirates, but I am partial to seeing old gods fall.

A big 'Hello' to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.

What if all music became free?

One possible outcome of the war between the music industry and the rest of the world is the realization that some forms of property cannot be owned in any reasonable sense. Since music can now be copied and distributed world wide at essentially zero cost with no way to track the transaction, the owners of the recording lose control of it after the first copy has been sold, or even sooner. The result can potentially be the inability for the recording company and artist to profit from their effort or even to recover their losses regardless of how popular the recording is. One reaction to that situation would be to lament the fate of the starving musician who is being deprived of his livelihood because of a bunch of unscrupulous and greedy internet music fans. Another reaction is to cheer loudly for the demise of the unscrupulous and greedy music industry that has exploited both musicians and the public for decades. But to get a firm grasp on the issue you need to ask the question, "What would the world be like if all music was free?". Only then can you start to make sense of the issues at hand.

Free music means that things are going to change through the entire music industry, and the changes will be big. The most obvious change will be a dramatic reduction in the amount of effort put into the production of new music. Profitability from CD sales will drop to essentially zero. Since these profits are used for promotion, marketing, and live touring expenses there will be a similar reduction of effort in those areas as well. Considering this it might appear that the music industry would disappear altogether, but this would not be the case. There will still be demands for music, it's just that the demands will be greatly reduced and focused on different areas. Movie soundtracks will still benefit from original music as well as television programs, advertisements, and other forms of commercial media. Profit from these sources will cover the recording costs. Furthermore, young people will still demand music, even if they are unwilling to pay a lot for it, and with that demand will go the potential for profiting by supplying the market.

But by far the biggest change will be the elimination of the rock superstar. Looking back at the absurdities inflicted on the public by these musical icons their disappearance would be a welcome relief. Free music would prevent any single recording artist from generating ridiculous amounts of wealth from a single recording and thus the overnight sensation and the over-promotion and excessive marketing efforts that saturate the media would be gone. This should all pave the way for the professional pop/rock/rap/etc. musician, that is, one who gets paid a reasonable salary to perform music. The concept of a professional musician is hardly new, but in the field of popular music it is something that seems almost unheard of. The stereotype of the musician who works at Guitar Center or McDonalds to pay for his band's expenses while struggling to be discovered is fairly common. It's also a terrible career path, but the promise of great wealth and fame keeps young people chasing the dream for as long as their money holds out. Another downside to the current system is that good musicianship and good song writing don't necessarily go hand in hand. Good musicians with mundane material often end up forgotten while poor musicians who have written catchy hits make the big time. The need for ownership of music can often prevent the best musicians from playing the best songs.

In a world where music is free, the musician would be a paid performer. Musicians would record music for soundtracks, commercials, etc. on a contractual basis just like any other professional. Musicians would also play live music from a selection of any songs that they wanted to play or the audience wanted to hear. Also, they would generally be some of the best singers and players available, or at least those with a style or character that the audience prefers. In other words, popular musicians would earn a living just like musicians in every other genre, with their skill. The field would become more respectable, and by that I mean the focus would be more on the music and less on the image of the performers, not that the musicians themselves would end necessarily end up respectable.

Also in a world where music is free, the focus on song writing would also shift away from writing something popular towards writing something with personal meaning. Not that I think that all popular music is empty and meaningless, but it has to be pointed out that the music industry as it stands today greatly benefits from promoting music that matches other popular songs and acts. This fact alone has a far reaching effect on song writing at all levels. If the goal of the artist shifts from capturing his or her emotions in song towards composing a song that will become a "hit", something is lost. With the financial incentive reduced, I think that song writing will tend more towards a passionate act of creation rather than selling out as a matter of necessity or desire. And perhaps the general public will have more opportunities to hear those songs crafted from passion in a world where music is free.

A More Realistic Vision

Lest I get carried away in my own rosy view of what the world of music might become I should also keep in mind that our rampaging capitalistic system would be extremely unlikely to let such a rich source of demand as young people's desire for music and susceptibility to hero worship go untapped. Money has a way of warping reality around it and the great wealth of the music industry is no exception.

The first thing that I can see happening is something similar to what has happened in the United States' war on drugs, and that is the massive escalation of fines and punishments for offenders. Severe punishments are a desperate attempt to discourage criminal activity on the whole by making an example of an individual. It doesn't matter that such a practice is in violation of the eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding "excessive fines" and "cruel and unusual punishments". This is because all governing bodies are ultimately only answerable to themselves and can use whatever means necessary to enforce order. So one might anticipate seeing massive fines being levied against ISPs for hosting copyrighted material and felony charges being brought against people who create, distribute, or simply own illegal copies of music. You might be the next arbitrary victim. In case you think that such a tactic is unlikely, I should remind you of the case of the denial of service (D.O.S.) attacks on Amazon and E-Bay. According to the U.S.'s Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, any denial of service that amounts to a mere $5000 of lost business revenue over a course of a year is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This is unreasonable punishment for an act which is relatively minor and easy to defend against. Furthermore, the federal authorities used the attack to justify several new pieces of legislation which would give them more power to violate the privacy of individuals in the interests of capturing cyber- felons. In light of the latest legal action involving Napster we can expect to see more sacrificial cyber-scapegoats, more demonization of anyone who dares to attack a rich and powerful industry, and a more powerful federal Big Brother knocking on your computer screen.

Another thing that I can see happening is the music industry making an actual attempt to sell digitized music over the internet. It's a simple matter to create a music player that will only play registered music files on the computer or CD/DVD player for which the files and player are registered. It's a mystery why the music industry has failed to try this and instead has decided to force the public to continue buying CDs which are inflexible and very expensive. If a major label like Sony started allowing people to buy and download MP3s (that could only be played on the owner's MP3 player) for $2 per song I would think that they could make a fair profit from the venture. Furthermore, the industry could unleash it's marketing machine and saturate the internet with it's players, formats, and download sites in an attempt to drown out the free, unlicensed players and formats. The industry could also simply try to buy out the competition.

In any event, the war is far from over and the majority of the money is on the side of the music industry. Expect things to begin to get rough.

How to order "Lovecraftian Nightmares"

Order your copy of the second Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares" by doing the following:

  • 1. Send me e-mail requesting the new CD and giving your address (if you prefer, you can send your address via snail mail)
  • 2. Mail $5 ($7 if overseas) and a note requesting the Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares" to the following address. Make sure to include your return address.

Brian Voth
21426 Lake Forest Dr. Apt H
Lake Forest, CA, 92630 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, the CD is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is the e-mail request. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is ready. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.

The CD comes with a booklet filled with awesome art, a picture of yours truly in his studio, and some information about the CD which can also be found on this website.

"Rampage" - A Fireaxe comrade in arms

Truly good music is often hard to contain. What begins as raw emotion and later gets coupled to music often ends up recorded on a cassette tape only to get discarded and forgotten. But in the age of powerful personal computers the fate of music that doesn't catch the ear of a record company executive no longer has to languish in anonymity. If their desire is strong enough, a musician can now find an outlet for his most treasured works on the internet. Of course it takes a lot of hard work, endless trial and error, and learning a lot of new necessary skills, but sometimes the desire to find an audience can get you over those tall hurdles.

I could be talking about myself and Fireaxe, but what I've written above also describes Vic "McNaughty" and Rampage. A while ago we swapped stories and a few CDs, and, being veterans of the "one man doing it all in his apartment" gig, we quickly recognized the talent and drive present in each other's music. Vic plays metal and has quite a repertoire in a wide ranging genre. He can do the 80's sound, he can do the death metal thing, and he can write as well as anyone in those genres can. Plus he has a good sense of humor, which, once you catch onto it, gives a few of his songs a "Spinal Tap"-esque quality that will make you smile. But Vic can be serious as well, and the latest Rampage CD is more than proof of that. One spin of "Bellum Infinitum" had me convinced that Vic and Rampage were a force on the underground internet metal scene. This is truly inspired work in the vein of vintage 80's power metal and it goes places that 80's power metal never quite made it to. You can tell that Vic put his heart into this CD and all his hard work paid off. Check out his band Rampage and order his CDs if you like.

The standard disclaimers apply. If you go there looking for high quality production and something reflecting the all too trendy "edgy" image please stop fooling yourself. This is music straight from the artist's hand. Enjoy.

The Future

Over the years, I've been thinking of some new song ideas revolving around a theme of religious warfare, fundamentalism, and ideological conflict. Although we feel safe in our modern world that open warfare and chaos cannot happen in our "sane" and "stable" society, nothing could be further from the truth. Volatility seems to be at an all time high for the latter half of this century. Throughout the world people are embracing extremism in greater and greater numbers. These people's beliefs are far outside the mainstream and they are willing to commit all manner of atrocity to support those beliefs. It appears that this situation will only escalate. The next Fireaxe CD will explore this theme. It will examine why people embrace radical ideologies, explore the emotions which typify extremism, and study the seeds of violence which are prevalent in our society. The CD will be titled "Food for the Gods" meaning that WE are the food for the gods. Any extremist ideology is effectively "God" and people are slaughtered or enslaved in that God's name (i.e. the ideology feeds on the bodies of the slain and beaten down). The CD will fit loosely around the themes in "A Dream of Death" but will explore the more violent aspects of belief in depth. If you ever wondered what drives a person to kill and commit horrible acts, "Food for the Gods" will try to answer that question. It will be an extremely intense CD.

My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.

Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

  • 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
  • 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
  • 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
  • 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
  • 5. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
  • 6. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
  • 7. Fireaxe will not be held responsible for the destruction of hopes and dreams that may come while listening to this CD. Also, any subsequent social revolution which follows from this CD is simply not my fault. It's all part of the big picture. Just listen to the disk and you'll understand what I mean.
  • 8. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.

The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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